The House had a lengthy debate yesterday on a motion to take note of the case for reform of the House of Lords. There were sixty-seven speakers and overwhelmingly they favoured reforming the House in order to strengthen it in carrying out its functions but were opposed to an elected second chamber, which would destroy the current House. Despite some (unsurprising) element of repetition and some self-congratulatory speeches, the debate was a good one and the mood of the House very clear.
I was the thirty-third speaker. In the time available – there was an advisory speaking limit of seven minutes – I addressed the stilts on which the argument for an elected House was based and sought to demonstrate why they could not carry the weight accorded them. I challenged the claim that having a second chamber was the ‘settled’ view of the Commons, that an elected chamber was the democratic option, that it alone conferred legitimacy, and that the relationship between the two Houses would remain as they are in the event of both Houses being elected. In replying, the minister, Lord McNally, didn’t engage with the first three and his only attempt to touch upon the last – claiming the Parliament Act 1911 was enacted in order to assert the supremacy of the Commons – was risible, since he omitted to mention that it was enacted in order to assert the supremacy of an elected House over an unelected one!